Oklahoma City is set to begin negotiations to bring an American Hockey League franchise to town for the 2010-2011 season. But there won't be pro hockey here next season.
The Oklahoma City Blazers have suspended operations after failing to renew their lease with Oklahoma City to play in the Ford Center or Cox Center, a team official said Thursday.
The decision comes as Oklahoma City officials have filed paperwork clearing the way to start negotiations with "a prospective AHL franchise afflilated with Express Sports," according to city documents.
The city council is scheduled to vote Tuesday to approve a "Letter of Intent" between the city and AHL Hockey Club, LLC.
The Blazers did not renew their lease with the Ford Center after months of negotiations. According to city documents, the city and SMG were going to grant the Blazers a three-year renewal, but the Blazers have retracted the deal.
Blazers assistant general manager Josh Evans said it was purely a business decision and said the city and SMG were very accommodating in the process.
“It is not economically feasible for us to go on at this point,” Evans said. “We will evaluate our business and move on from there.”
The Blazers organization informed the CHL on Wednesday about the decision. All the players from last year’s team will now be free agents and can sign with any team they choose.
The Edmonton Oilers of the NHL own a dormant AHL franchise and there have been discussions in recent month about relocating that team to Oklahoma City.
The decision to suspend operations ends the Blazers' 17-season run in Oklahoma City, a successful tenure that saw them win CHL titles in 1996 and 2001 and frequently lead all North American minor league hockey teams in attendance.